Fair Board has questions to answer concerning racing decision
BY World's Editorials Writers
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
12/04/12 at 4:20 AM
Related Story: Tulsa County fair board to take comments on deal with Creek Nation
Original Print Headline: Disclosure
The fact that there is a brouhaha concerning operations at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (Expo Square) is nothing new. Longtime Tulsans know that such controversy is traditional.
The latest is the fair board's decision to award naming rights to the current QuikTrip Center, the exposition center, to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation for $1.44 million a year. Additionally the fair board, on which the three county commissioners sit, gave the tribe the right over the next two years to propose a plan for development of the land upon which the old Drillers Stadium sits. Most controversial was the fair board's vote to end live racing at Fair Meadows.
All this has an impact on not only Tulsa County, but the state - especially the state's horse and horse-racing industries.
Another vote on the naming rights will be held at the fair board meeting Thursday, but no new vote is scheduled on the live racing decision.
We believe County Commissioner Fred Perry when he says that all state law was observed during the first vote. Still, there was a sense of a rush with little public input. The first vote was taken without comment. The new vote, according to the agenda, will include comment.
But, the horse racing decision remains puzzling, although fair board records reflect a steady loss of income since 1996 for both live racing and simulcast wagering. The Creek, Osage and Cherokee tribes have subsidized Fair Meadows with a $2 million a year stipend in lieu of gaming machines.
This decision also might relieve the tribes of a deal that has them paying about $6.8 million a year into horse racing purses statewide. If, indeed, the tribes argue that, the fair board's decision will have an impact on a statewide industry. That, alone, could push the decision into court.
Public perception is important in matters such as these. The public needs to know if the fairgrounds is losing money in this deal or if the board is giving up too much. And questions about the racing decision must be answered.
All concerned need to be heard. Public light and input is the best course.